How Do Lawyers Work? How Do You Work?


“How Lawyers Work” series at The Lawyerist

The Lawyerist has introduced an interesting series of profiles of individual lawyers called “How Do Lawyers Work?”

Not only do I find it intriguing to look into the work lives of other legal practitioners and discover what digital tools and programs they find most useful to their practices, it is also a fun exercise to answer The Lawyerist‘s questions yourself, and see how your answers compare to those of others.

Here are some of the questions the series poses:

  • What apps or tools are essential to your daily workflow?
  • What does your workspace look like?
  • What is one thing that you listen to/read/watch that everyone should?

Other questions relate to such critical matters as deadlines and coffee sources.

Here are two examples of the interviews The Lawyerist has published so far:

You can check out others by clicking here, or on the image from The Lawyerist above.

I welcome your thoughts on this or any other law-related subject, either through the comments below or directly via email.

India’s Leading Law Firms Honoured at Leadership Summit in Mumbai

Leadership Summit 2017 Awards Presentations, Mumbai

Leadership Summit 2017, Overview and Awards Presentations, Mumbai

Congratulations to Edge International principal Bithika Anand, founder and CEO of Legal League Consulting, for her role in organizing the Leadership Summit and Excellence Awards, 2017, held in Mumbai in early February. The focus of the conference was on the “evolving role of law in empowering and enabling businesses to drive the economy.” Guest speakers explored policy changes the Indian government has introduced to help synchronize the country’s economy with the global economy, and how these changes are being implemented.

The Leadership Summit provided a platform for more than 200 participants to share ideas, to learn, and to deliberate the way forward with speakers from the business, policy-making, legal, entrepreneurial and academic sectors. The conference was followed by the presentation of awards in special and general categories.

Bithika Anand, whose legal consulting company has offices in Delhi and Mumbai, advises Edge International on India-specific growth and business initiatives. She is also an honourary consultant to the Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF), where she works with the organization and advises its members in matters relating to compliance with best industry practices.

I welcome your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

“Live Your Magic” Series Inspires Readers of All Ages

1I am taking a break from my usual subject matter today to let you know about a remarkable series of books and videos created by my long-time friend Larry Anderson, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Larry’s journey began when he was a high-school dropout, living alone and lonely in a rooming house, working in a dead-end job. He resolved to turn his life around, and he has done so in spectacular fashion. Today, Larry is one of the few people in the world who I can describe as deeply happy, having more than achieved his goals in all areas of his life: financially, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. He is a founding partner in a highly successful home-building corporation, a popular inspirational speaker, a devoted husband and a doting father and grandfather. Today, Larry spends his winters based in Palm Springs and his summers in Edmonton pursuing his interests in travel, philanthropy and golf.

2One of Larry’s ongoing missions has been to share what he has learned over the course of his life with others who want to benefit from his knowledge, and from the knowledge of others that he has accumulated and applied successfully to his own initiatives and challenges. The result is two books and a video and workbook series available through the website Live Your Magic. The proceeds from all sales go to charity, education and arts initiatives that support youth.

  • Inspiration to Live your Magic! is a compendium of 75 brief, easily read biographies of such notable individuals as Alfred Nobel, Celine Dion, Benjamin Franklin and J.K. Rowling.
  • Wisdom to Live Your Magic! contains “Life Lessons from 50 Amazing Teachers,” including Oprah Winfrey, Aristotle, Victor Frankl, Steve Jobs, and many, many others.
  • Journey to Live Your Magic is a series of six videotapes and nine workbooks that have been created to help viewers apply principles of success, wisdom and inspiration to their own lives.

3The highly regarded Kirkus Reviews has described Inspiration as “An upbeat, inspiring celebration of mankind’s ability to challenge the odds,” and Wisdom as “A valuable guide that encourages and enables self-actualization.”

Whether it is a young person looking for a role model, an adult seeking inspiration to redirect their lives, or a speaker looking for a subject on which to build an inspirational talk, I cannot recommend this series highly enough.

“Chat Bot” Offers Free Legal Advice to Refugees

business robotThe Telegraph reports that a university student has developed a way to provide free legal advice via Facebook Messenger to refugees who are looking for asylum in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. Joshua Browder, who has been named a Forbes’ “Thirty Under Thirty” for his entrepreneurial prowess, first attracted attention last year for the legal-assistance bot DoNotPay, which has helped overturn more than 160,000 parking tickets in the U.K. and U.S.

Now the DoNotPay bot, which responds to written queries on Facebook’s Messenger app, is answering questions posed in Arabic and English about qualifications for asylum claims, and even advises asylum seekers how to fill out necessary forms.

Browder, who is not yet 21, developed the bot in his spare time while completing an undergraduate degree at Stanford. He calls DoNotPay “The World’s First Robot Lawyer,” and states on its website that his bot “can talk to you, generate documents and answer questions. It is just like a real lawyer, but is completely free and doesn’t charge any commission.”

Other legal matters the bot has addressed include compensation for flight delays and landlord-tenant issues.

I welcome your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.


Law Firm Success Depends on Success of Firm’s Lawyers

TLOMAI was pleased to be invited by The Law Office Management Association (TLOMA) of Ontario to create an article based on my book, The Successful Lawyer: Powerful Strategies for Transforming Your Practice, for the February, 2017 issue of the association’s publication, TLOMA Today.

The article I submitted, “Drive Law Firm Success by Helping Each Lawyer Succeed,” offers guidelines on how law-firm leaders can help individual lawyers create personal action plans, and then put them to use to develop legal practices that are deeply satisfying on a personal level, as well as financially rewarding. Here are a few of those suggestions:

  • Provide lawyers in the firm with the leeway to create a vision of the kind of clientele and the practice they want within the scope of the firm’s initiatives;
  • Offer professional development sessions that will facilitate their moving closer to their goals, by honing skills in such areas as courting prospective clients, cross-selling services, asking for referrals, and transferring clients within the firm;
  • Conduct workshops in areas relating to client interaction that many lawyers find difficult, such as handling telephone inquiries, requesting retainer fees, and managing files where fees exceed estimates.

The article goes on to talk about the importance of leading by example, and involving senior lawyers in the training process. All of these points, among many others, are explored more deeply in The Successful Lawyer.

Please let me know your thoughts on this or any other law-related subject, either through the comments below or directly via email.


Shift from “Case” to “Task” Approach Will Impact Law-Firm Management

Ratner,A recent article in Corporate Counsel draws our attention to a paper published by Morris Ratner, associate professor of law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, on the impacts on legal practice of cost-management initiatives by both clients and the courts. Paramount among these, the paper says, is a move by in-house departments toward “unbundling” legal work.

Ratner’s paper, which appears in the Fordham Law Review, is entitled “Restraining Lawyers: From Cases to Tasks.” In it, Ratner discusses amendments to the Federal Rules of Court Procedure in the US that encourage trial court judges to “dissect, assess the value of, and sequence case activity, including discovery,” as well as moves by “sophisticated” clients to break down legal work into “tasks” that can then be outsourced to lower-fee providers in order to manage costs.

While Ratner welcomes changes that will require litigators to consider managing costs for both the judicial system and the client, this trend should also be noted by, and serve as a warning to, law firm leaders: in the years to come, the line between law-firm management and case management is likely to blur increasingly.

As always, I welcome your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.


Legal Support Staff Need Training to Adapt to New Roles

Brad Smith, Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft

Brad Smith, Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft

On a panel entitled “Governing Globalization” at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Microsoft’s Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith reminded his audience that thirty years ago, legal secretaries typically worked for two lawyers; today, each supports the work of about ten. A range of new technology has dramatically reduced the need for support staff at law firms, and those who will continue to be employed in future are those who are strongest in the “soft skills” that make them essential to a law practice.

A Bloomberg Big Law article on the panel, “Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Toasts Legal Secretaries,” describes the skills that distinguish successful support staff personnel – those who can work with ten lawyers at a time – as “not only interpersonal communication, but things like the ability to work collaboratively, to adapt to a new set of demands, and to solve problems on the fly.”

As the role of the secretary continues to evolve from clerical worker to administrative assistant, ongoing training and feedback are clearly vital. Without it, the legal support staff person is the most endangered species in the legal profession.

I welcome your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

ROSS Intelligence Update: How IBM Watson App Helps U.S. Lawyers with Legal Research

Medium article includes a video about the ROSS Intelligence app

Medium article features video about ROSS Intelligence, and how lawyers can use it

A recent article from Medium’s Cognitive Business section explains how ROSS Intelligence, an IBM Watson app, conducts searches to help U.S. lawyers answer legal questions.

The article explains that a question in plain English from a lawyer is what triggers the search by ROSS. The application then goes to work to “[read] through the entire body of law and [return] a cited answer and topical readings from legislation, case law and secondary sources to get you up-to-speed.”

The app is not simply based on key words and phrases, as is the case with traditional searches on Google, for example. Instead, it applies its “artificial intelligence” to return answers that are most likely to fit the required legal context, and it also indicates how confident it is in the answers it provides.

The article includes a video about ROSS Intelligence for non-techies, and links to other resources related to the app. It also offers reassurance to those who need it that ROSS is a tool for lawyers, and not a replacement for them.

Please let me know your thoughts on this or any other law-related subject, either through the comments below or directly via email.

J+O Firm: Where Start-Ups Utilize Legal Counsel in New Ways

Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.  ~ Steve Jobs

Rachel Johnson (l) and Christina Oshan

Rachel Johnson (l) and Christina Oshan of J+O

Rachel Johnson and Christina Oshan spent the beginning of their careers at large firms. They noticed that startups and emerging growth companies engaged with their legal teams using a different approach than that used by established companies – one not often aligned with the antiquated protocols of conventional law firms. They set out to build a law firm that was more transparent, efficient and approachable, and the result was J+O.

Oshan and Johnson realized that the evolving way in which startups use their legal teams meant changing the way in which they, as attorneys, needed to deliver service in return, and they saw that this evolution was a match for their experience and professional style. At J+O, every decision is “gut-checked” to ensure it advances the sentiment that the firm’s attorneys feel like internal company team members versus outside counsel – a notion that, they point out, is not common in the legal field.

J+O uses the latest technology to connect and collaborate efficiently, including tools such as Slack and Asana, which reduces their overhead and makes it cost effective for their clients to work directly with their legal team.

Also to promote efficiency, they forego the common practice of keeping legal documents locked up behind brick and mortar doors. Instead, J+O sets up digital technology processes to ensure corporate documents are organized and readily accessible, to facilitate seamless transactions (such as due diligence) and day-to-day operations.

While technology plays a big role in their evolved legal industry approach, Johnson and Oshan also credit the fact that they are selective about the type and volume of clients they work with, so they can give them the attention they need. This enables them to successfully steep themselves in their clients’ businesses so they can anticipate their needs as the company grows – and with “luck” (which they define as “experience, sweat and commitment”), J+O grows right along with them.

While the J+O approach may not be right for everyone and every area of law, more traditional firms would do well to consider the major change in mind-set it represents for lawyers and their clients.

As always, I invite you to share thoughts on this or any other law-related topic, either through the comments below or directly via email.

Manage Space as Well as Time to Increase Productivity

Gerry Riskin Amazing FirmsAn article entitled “10 Simple Productivity Tips for Organizing your Work Life” by David Lavenda, published appropriately early in the new year by Entrepreneur, offers ten tips on improving your work-life productivity.

Lavenda points out that all of us have too many things demanding our time and attention, and we need to establish protocols, habits and mindsets that will assist us in using our resources effectively. Although acting on any of Lavenda’s tips is likely to bring positive results, one struck me as particularly useful because most of us rarely think about it: “6. Consolidate the number of places you need to go for information.

Lavenda points out that it is not only over physical space that we need to gain control in order to work effectively, but also over virtual space. Most of us consult with many apps and platforms during a typical day – from email to databases to social media utilities to our calendars. He suggests that we “Make notifications from each application appear in one place” – using an SMS reader or email subscriptions, for example. This will help us to avoid touring around from one app to another throughout the day, often becoming increasingly distracted as we go.

Let me know your thoughts on this or any other law-related subject, either through the comments below or directly via email.